Coming out of stasis?
It’s the last day of 2012. 2012 has not been the best year of my life. I was about to say I’d been treading water, just barely, but that’s not the right metaphor. It’s been more like watching my life go by, and not being able to really grasp it for more than a few moments here and there. It was not the watching of real observation, but of catching glimpses of reality here and there. Even when I felt I was connected to the rest of the world, or to myself, I felt out of sync. In many ways, it was like that feeling people often get when they’ve had just a bit too much to drink at a conference or party, and are struggling very hard to keep up with the conversation and not behave as if they are drunk. There are many reasons for this, most of which were connected to dealing with a Thing at work that should have been resolved within weeks, but instead has dragged on for over three years, and which pushed me into therapy. The problem with therapy, I’ve discovered, is that in dealing with current garbage, you often find that the garbage is linked to things that were locked away, occasionally reaching a hand out through the bars of their cells, but generally segregated from daily life. Much of 2012 was spent opening the cell doors for very short times, and looking at the creatures within. I think the feeling of disconnection may be directly related to keeping the creatures at bay while I examined them; in fact, that keeping them at bay may explain why my therapist has teared up more than I have. But defense mechanisms can be exhausting. Mine seem to be the sort that simply urge me into auto-pilot — I’m just lucky that I’m able to do a fair job on some things, like teaching, on auto-pilot. Other things, I’ve not been able to keep up with: friends (I think I managed to have people over to my house once or twice all year, where normally I have people over for at least dinner or drinks a couple times a month); family; reading; exercise; paperwork (I have just realized I never filed my state tax forms last year — fortunately, the state owes me a refund, so I think there will be no penalty); work I owe to professional organizations and colleagues… And then, there were various health problems. And what seems also to have been mid-life crisis. Finally, my year has ended with one of those things that has just made me say, “Fuck this. I am scared to death, but I’m not willing to have another year like this if I can help it.” Cancer will do that.
Yep. That’s been (as those of you who know me IRL know) the last three weeks of my life. Cancer diagnosis (malignant melanoma), guidelines indicated checking for spread to the lymph system, surgery, biopsies…
No sign of spread. Surgical scars now healing well. So I’m fine! Except that I’m not, because there’s always a watching and waiting period, about five years, to make sure it doesn’t come back, and that it doesn’t start up in another place.
So now I’m definitely at an age where I most probably past the halfway point of my allotted years. And, at least at the present moment, I am not willing to go through another year like this. I tend to think on an academic calendar, so New Year’s resolutions always seem odd to me; besides, I don’t like resolutions, because I feel guilty when I don’t accomplish them. So I have only one overarching goal for 2013: to reach the end of the year having felt that I’ve achieved more control over my own life, and to enjoy more the good things I’ve added in the past year, but haven’t really been able to build on.
There were, as it happens, good things.
I acquired a canine companion. She is a foster, but having to get up and take her out first thing and last thing, and times in between, is beginning to help with structure that I desperately needed.
I listened to my voice teacher and auditioned for a choral group. They took me. We performed some very hard Baroque music this year, and I managed to do fairly well at singing the most difficult part. But I was not ever as practiced or good as I wanted to be, nor as good as I could have been. I really like the people in the chorale, and want to have their respect and in some cases, their friendship.
I taught a couple of new courses that have the potential to be much better courses. Despite the fact that I was shite in many ways, the final work and the evaluations indicated that, despite my weaknesses (slow feedback, lack of organization), the students felt challenged and enjoyed the classes.
I finished an essay which is due to come out in an edited volume any day now. I have ideas for others.
I think I became closer friends with some of my readers and colleagues. I can honestly say that my friendships with some of you all, and a couple of colleagues at SLAC, have made such a huge difference in my life, and have done so much to counteract the drain on my self-confidence mentioned above.
I was awarded a sabbatical for part of the upcoming academic year (sadly after the deadline for many fellowships…)
So, for 2013, I want to feel more like a participant, and less like an observer. I don’t know how that will happen, but I suspect it might involve exchanging the feeling that I must always be doing things for a more deliberate slowing down and focus on doing this thing, now, and then moving to the next. We’ll see. Any suggestions are of course welcome.
In the meantime, I wish you all a very happy and healthy new year.